Parties in the presidential election petition on Monday agreed on the modalities and structure for the hearing of the petition filed by candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the February 23 presidential election, Atiku Abubakar and his party, the PDP.
Among some of the proposition made which is subject to the approval of the panel is that hearing in the substantive matter commences on Thursday July 4.
Atiku and PDP are among three other petitioners challenging the outcome of the presidential poll that handed a second term to President Muhammadu Buhari.
Some of the grounds on which the petition is anchored include substantive non compliance with the electoral laws, intimidation, suppression of voters in stronghold of opposition among others.
Atiku specifically claimed he won the presidential poll going by results obtained from a controversial central server of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and as such the five man presidential panel should nullify the election of Buhari and declare winner in his stead.
However at Monday’s proceedings following a request which was granted by Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Mohammed Garba, parties agreed on how the tribunal should go about the conduct of the proceedings.
Lead counsel to Atiku and PDP, Dr Levy Uzuokwu (SAN), who spoke on behalf of all lawyers in the matter gave a summary of decisions reached by parties.
Uzoukwu told the tribunal that all parties agreed that the petitioners instead of the 14 days allowed by law for them to call witnesses in the case, would spend 10 days while the respondents would use 6 days.
On time to be allotted to each witnesses to be called, parties agreed on 5 minutes for ordinary witnesses and 10 minutes for their cross examination, while 10 minutes was agreed for star/ expert/ subpoenaed witnesses, 20 minutes for their cross examination and 3 minutes for their re-examination.
On the issue of documents, it was agreed that parties should indicate their objection if any at the point of tendering but address on the objection should be isolated from the main address.
They also agreed that all documents should be tendered from the bar, and that parties should list and exchange schedule of documents they intend to rely on in the petition.
In respect of final addresses, parties agreed that respondents should file their final addresses 7 days after the close of evidence, petitioners 5 days, while 3 days is for reply on point of law.
Meanwhile, the tribunal has fixed Wednesday July 3, for ruling in the pre-hearing application brought by Atiku, seeking to set aside the proceedings of June 11, 2019.
Justice Garba had earlier reserved ruling shortly after parties in the petition had argued their briefs but announced Wednesday at the end of the day’s proceedings.
After Atiku’s lawyer adopted his written address as his argument, counsel to President Buhari, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), asked the tribunal to refuse the application on the grounds that records of the said proceedings have been transmitted to the Supreme Court.
Olanipekun submitted that since an appeal has been filed at the apex court on the same issues the petitioners cannot ask the court to look into the same issues.
Lead counsel to INEC, Yunus Usman (SAN), however said although the commission did not file any brief, but it expressed objections to the application.
Similarly, APC’s lead counsel, Prince Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) also objected to the motion and agreed with the position of the president with the exception that the records of court have been transmitted to the apex court.
Fagbemi submitted that the tribunal can still look at the application but cannot grant it because the law is settled that if a preliminary objection is filed and not argued it is deemed to have been abandoned.
According to him, the petitioners filed a preliminary objection to their motion but failed to argue it on June 11, when the 3rd respondent (APC) moved its motion seeking to remove some paragraphs of the petitioners petition, “since they did not argue it, it can be deemed to have been abandoned”, Fagbemi said.